166. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam 1

1634. State/Defense message. Deptel 1399;2 JCS 6900;3 MACV 43199, DTG 091149Z.4 Subject: Authorization for Operations Involving Cambodia.

We have given careful thought to question of extending authorization of Deptel 1399 and accompanying JCS message to further situations that may arise in areas of Pleiku, Dar Lac, and Kon Tum provinces. We recognize that resumption offensive operations in these areas, as foreshadowed MACV 43199 is virtually certain to raise this issue in much same form it faced us at time of Silver Bayonet operation.
MACV 43199 has suggested some modifications in the Silver Bayonet authorization and we have also given thought to whether to authorize air strike against base areas and other targets if firmly located.
On balance, we conclude that authority should not be granted as standard operating procedure, but that your planning may proceed on assumption that in any situation approximating that of Silver Bayonet similar authorization will be extended promptly from Washington. If emergency arises, you should advise Washington and are authorized meanwhile to proceed on assumption Washington approval will be forthcoming.
As to terms or such authorization, we are reluctant to go beyond authority summarized Deptel 1399. This authority limits maneuver objective to self-defense purposes but at same time does not impose rigid 2-kilometer territorial limit which we believe would in practice be virtually impossible to follow in any case. As to observation aircraft and airborne FACʼs, we believe that such operations were necessarily implied in Deptel 1399 from our authorization for close air support and artillery in defined circumstances; such operations are therefore considered as authorized to extent required for these purposes, but again without arbitrary 10-kilometer limit.
We do not believe authority described para 6D of MACV 43199, concerning ground reconnaissance elements should now be granted. Such action might readily be picked up and would not have clear self-defense justification of other actions contemplated by form of authority.
Thus, we concur in para 6A of MACV 43199, accept 6B as modified by earlier authorization, accept activity under 6C as discussed above, reject 6D and accept 6E and 6F. Finally, we reiterate necessity justifying of such actions, when and as taken, on basis self-defense. Concur that we must make clear in any appropriate manner that this is purpose and that we are not seeking a wider war.
Do not believe any change in existing general limitations should be discussed with GVN. As a practical matter, we assume that, in connection these three provinces at least ARVN forces would in effect be under US command. We have impression any apparent change in general authority might lead GVN to take actions not clearly justifiable under self-defense rationale.
  1. Source: Department of Defense, Official Files of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 9155.1 (14 Oct. 65) IR 6231 S. 2. Top Secret; Exdis.
  2. Document 161.
  3. Not found.
  4. Document 165.